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The Midland Main Line is a major railway line in the United Kingdommarker, part of the British railway system.

The 'Modern' line links Londonmarker St. Pancras Internationalmarker to Sheffieldmarker stationmarker in northern Englandmarker via Lutonmarker, Bedfordmarker, Ketteringmarker, Leicestermarker, Derbymarker, Nottinghammarker and Chesterfieldmarker.

Historically the line has extended further north to Manchestermarker in the north west, Leedsmarker in the north east and trains through to both Glasgowmarker and Edinburghmarker in Scotlandmarker. The straighter East Coast Main Line initially saw the demise of Midland trains to Leeds and ultimately Scotland due to the longer journey times. Later, electrification of the West Coast Main Linemarker and the Beeching cuts, saw Manchester trains withdrawn from the Midland and transferred to the West Coast Main Linemarker.

January 2009 saw the opening of a brand new station, East Midlands Parkwaymarker between Loughborough and Trent Junction, to act as a parkway station for the major East Midlands cities and serve East Midlands Airportmarker.

Express passenger services on the line are operated by East Midlands Trains. The section between St Pancras and Bedford is electrified and forms the northern half of the Thameslink suburban service (operated by First Capital Connect), which provides a through service from Bedfordmarker to Brightonmarker.

The northern part of the route between Derby and Sheffield forms part of the Cross Country Route and is shared with CrossCountry. The route from Nottinghammarker to Leedsmarker via Barnsleymarker and Sheffield is shared with Northern. TransPennine Express operate through Sheffield. East Midlands Local also operates regional and local services between Nottingham and Leicester / Derby / Sheffield / Manchester.


The Midland Main Line was built in stages between the 1830s and the 1860s, as three lines which met at the Tri Junct Stationmarker in Derbymarker.

First to arrive was the line built by the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway from Hampton-in-Ardenmarker, Warwickshiremarker (on the London and Birmingham Railway) to Derbymarker, which opened on 12 August 1839. This section is now known as the Cross-Country Route through Birminghammarker to Bristolmarker.

This was followed on 1 July 1840 by the North Midland Railway, which ran from Derby to Leeds Hunslet Lanemarker via Chesterfieldmarker, Swintonmarker, Masborough, near Rotherhammarker (from where the Sheffield and Rotherham Railway ran a branch to Sheffield Wicker Stationmarker), and Normantonmarker. This avoided Sheffieldmarker, Barnsleymarker, and Wakefieldmarker in order to reduce gradients.

On the same day the Midland Counties Railway, which ran from Derby and Nottinghammarker to Leicester Campbell Streetmarker, was extended from Leicestermarker to a temporary station on the northern outskirts of Rugbymarker. A few months later, the Rugby viaduct was finished and the Midland Counties Railway reached the London and Birmingham's Rugby Stationmarker. This cut 11 miles off the B&DJR route via Hampton-in-Arden.

When these three companies merged to form the Midland Railway on 10 May 1844, the Midland did not have its own route to London, and relied upon a junction at Rugbymarker with the London and Birmingham's line (which became part of the London and North Western Railway on 1 January 1846) to London Euston for access to the capital.

By the 1850s the junction at Rugby had become severely congested, and so the Midland Railway constructed a route from Leicester to Hitchinmarker on the Great Northern Railway, via Bedfordmarker. The line avoids Northamptonmarker, a medium town south of Leicestermarker, instead going via Ketteringmarker and Wellingboroughmarker in the east of Northamptonshiremarker. This line met with similar problems at Hitchin as the former alignment had at Rugby, so in 1868 a line was opened from Bedford via Luton to London St Pancrasmarker.

The final stretch of what is considered to be the modern Midland Main Line was a short cut-off from Chesterfield through Sheffield, which opened in 1870.

Also part of the line as defined by Network Rail, is the Erewash Valley Line, Leicester to Burton upon Trent Line, Oakham to Kettering Linemarker and sections of the Nottingham to Lincoln Line (as far east as Newark) and Birmingham to Peterborough Line (between Nuneaton and Oakham).

Partly to appease the concerns and opposition of landowners along the route, in places some of it was built to avoid large estates and rural towns, and to reduce construction costs the railways followed natural contours, resulting in many curves and bends. This has also resulted in the MML passing through some of the hillier areas of the British mainland, such as Sharnbrook (where there is a 1 in 119 gradient from the south taking the line to 340 feet above sea level). This has left a legacy of lower maximum speeds on the line compared to the other main lines. The solution to similar problems on the West Coast Main Linemarker has been the adoption of tilting trains, Class 390 Pendolino trains introduced by Virgin in 2003.

By 1983, the line had undergone electrification from Moorgate as far north as Bedford. The introduction of the High Speed Train (HST) in May 1983 following the Leicester area resignalling brought about an increase of the ruling linespeed on the fast lines from 90 mph to 110 mph.

Between 2001 and 2003 the section of the Midland Main Line between Derbymarker and Sheffieldmarker was upgraded from 100 mph to 110 mph as part of Operation Princess, the Virgin Cross Country route upgrade.

Many plans have been drawn up only later to be dropped in a bid to improve speed and journey times, although more recently with investment easier to come by the line looks set to benefit from 125mph running on extended stretches, improved signalling, increased number of tracks and possible electrification further north.


Barrow upon Soar rail accident

On 1 February 2008, an East Midlands Connect Class 158 158856 working a service from Nottingham railway stationmarker to Norwich railway stationmarker was involved in an incident at Barrow upon Soarmarker. The train hit a footbridge that was in its path, after a road vehicle had struck and damaged the bridge, causing the bridge to be foul of the running line. Six passengers were on board the service and the driver had to be cut free from his driving cab. The footbridge itself, of Midland Railway heritage, has since been replaced.


The principal operator is East Midlands Trains, which replaced Midland Mainline on 11 November 2007. Other operators include:

Route definition and description

The cities, towns and villages served by the MML are listed below. Those in bold are served by the fast InterCity services. Be aware this section details the original line to Manchester (where it linked to the West Coast Main Line) and Carlisle (via Leeds where it meets with the 'modern' East Coast Main Line).

Network Rail group all lines in the East Midlands and the route north as far as Chesterfield and south to London as route 19. The actual line extends beyond this into routes 10 and 11.

London to Trent Junction

The growth and decline of a Trent railway junction, where lines from Derby, Nottingham and the Erewash converge

    • At Trent South Junction, the line splits into three, with lines to Derby, Nottingham and Erewash Valley

Trent Junction to Clay Cross Junction via Derby

Ambergate Junction to Manchester

For marketing and franchising, this is no longer considered part of the Midland Main Line: see Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway

The line was once the Midland Railway's route from London St Pancrasmarker to Manchestermarker, branching at Ambergate Junction along the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, now known as the Derwent Valley Line.In days gone by, it featured named expresses such as The Palatine. Much later in the twentieth century, it carried the Midland Pullman.

This line was closed in the 1960s between and , severing an important link between Manchester and the East Midlands, which has never been satisfactorily replaced by any mode of transport. A section of the route remains in the hands of the Peak Railmarker preservation group, operating between Matlock and Rowsleymarker to the north.

Trent Junction to Clay Cross Junction via Erewash Valley Line

Trent Junction to Nottingham

    • Trowell Junction
    • Northbound trains often reverse at Nottingham, then join the Erewash Valley Line at Trowell Junction

Clay Cross Junction to Leeds

Rotherham Central in 2004

Leeds to Carlisle

For marketing and franchising, this is no longer considered part of the Midland Main Line: see Settle-Carlisle Railway.

World War I prevented the Midland Railway from finishing its direct route through the West Riding to join the Settle and Carlisle (which would have cut six miles from the journey and avoided the need for reversal at Leedsmarker).

The first part of the Midlands West Riding extension from the main line at Royston marker to Dewsburymarker was opened before the war. However the second part of the extension was not completed.This involved a viaduct at Dewsbury over the River Calder, a tunnel under Dewsbury Moor and a new approach railway into Bradfordmarker from the south at a lower level than the existing railway (a good part of which was to be in tunnel) leading into Bradford Midland (or Bradford Forster Squaremarker) station.

The 500 yard gap between the stations at Bradford continues to exist - closing it today would also need to take into account the different levels between the two Bradford stations, a task made easier in the days of electric rather than steam traction, allowing for steeper gradients than possible at the time of the Midland's proposed extension.

Two impressive viaducts remain on the completed part of the line between Royston Junction and Dewsbury as a testament to the Midland's ambition to complete a third direct Anglo-Scottish route. The line served two goods stations and provided a route for occasional express passenger trains before its eventual closure in 1968.

The failure to complete this section ended the Midland's hopes of being a serious competitor on routes to Scotland and finally put beyond all doubt that Leeds, not Bradford, would be the West Riding's principal town. Midland trains to Scotland therefore continued to call at Leeds before travelling along the Aire Valley to the Settle and Carlisle. From Carlisle they then travelled onwards via either the Glasgow and South Western or Waverley route. In days gone by the line enjoyed named expresses such as the Thames-Clyde Express and The Waverley.

Former stations

As with most railway lines in Britain, the route used to serve far more stations than it currently does (and consequently passes close to settlements that it no longer serves). Places that the current mainline used to serve include

The Erewash Valley Line, part of the Midland Main Line.
Seen here at Stapleford.
The following on the original North Midland Railway line


Traffic levels on the Midland Main Line are rising faster than national average, with continued increases predicted. The now defunct Strategic Rail Authority produced a Route Utilisation Strategy for the Midland Main Line in 2006 to propose ways of meeting this demand ; Network Rail started work on a new study in February 2008 and is expected to be finalised early in 2010.

Network Rail's plans

The Midland Main line has for many years been thought of as a 'Cinderella' line and, with the increasing capacity constraints on other lines, the route looks set to benefit from investment and enhancement. Plans for the line include:
  • Re-signalling of the entire route, which is expected to be complete by 2016 when all signalling will be controlled by the East Midlands Signalling centre in Derby.
  • Rebuilding Derbymarker station
  • Rebuilding Leicestermarker station which would also involve an enhanced approach layout during re-signalling works
  • Rebuilding Bedfordmarker station
  • Accessibility enhancements at Loughboroughmarker station
  • Accessibility enhancements at Lutonmarker station
  • Renewing Trent and Clay Cross Junctions.
  • New bi-directional line between Ketteringmarker and Wellingboroughmarker.
  • Upgraded approach signalling to junctions allowing trains to cross over at higher speeds.
  • Thameslink Programme (see below)
  • Straightening the line at Market Harboroughmarker
  • Electrification
  • Speeds up to 125 mph (2013 onwards)
  • Possible Rushden Parkwaymarker station could be built on the former Irchester railway stationmarker

First Capital Connect, a rapidly expanding company which will benefit greatly from the Thameslink works

Route Utilisation Strategy

Thameslink Programme

  • Thameslink Programme

2007 business plan

Network Rail's 2007 business plan for the Midland Main Line talks for the first time in recent years of line speed increases - bringing journey times to Sheffield to under two hours, meaning that journey times would become more competitive to other north-south routes. Highlights include:

  • Kettering south - Harowden Junction (Wellingborough) third bi-directional slow line
  • Syston - Trent south slow line linespeed increases
  • Erewash Valley line resignalling (ongoing)
  • Removal of Clay Cross Junction (2008), new high speed Junction created south of Chesterfield (May 2008)
  • Trent Junction resignalling (April 2009 - January 2010)
  • Bedford & Nottingham stations remodelling
  • Flashing yellow signal aspects added at key junctions - Radlett, Harpenden and Leagrave

Freight utilisation strategy

Network Rail published a Route Utilisation Strategy for freight in 2007, over the coming years a cross country freight route will be developed enhancing the Birmingham to Peterborough Line, increasing the lines through Leicester, and remodelling Syston and Wigston Junctions.


  1. Route 19 Midland Main Line and East Midlands
  3. Train Driver Critically Injured After Lorry Smashes Into Bridge |Sky News|UK News

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